Addiction to substances such as cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, heroin, and other scheduled drugs can greatly impact the life of an individual in many ways, and when the individual in question becomes a parent, whether by decision or by circumstances, there is usually a prompt to make a life-defining decision for the sake of the child. The decision typically revolves around enrolling in a rehabilitation facility or maintaining a safe distance from the child.
Most individuals would prefer to stay and raise their child, even with their addictions; so what happens during this stage of parenthood? Can an addict be a good parent?
According to a 2009 to 2014 report on substance abuse disorder, about 8.7 million children in the US that are within the age range of 17 years and below had at least one parent who was living with an addiction. Listen to this podcast episode about loss of a child, trauma and alcoholism.
Imagine having to hide bottles of alcohol, hard drug paraphernalia, and used needles in clandestine places in the house while a curious toddler rummages through every piece of property in the house. It is only a matter of time before the child stumbles on something unfamiliar and may decide to “play” with it.
In other situations, many children who grew up with parents who are addicted to one substance or the other often have to deal with all forms of abuse and family dysfunctions that become a norm for them and affect their own self-esteem and judgment of right and wrong.
Table of Contents
- Problems Related With Parents Who Are Addicted To Drugs
- How Can an Addict Become a better Parent?
Problems Related With Parents Who Are Addicted To Drugs
1. Child Abuse
Child abuse is quite rampant in homes where one or both parents have an addiction to drugs. Sometimes the abusiveness is intentional, other times it is completely unintended but unavoidable. Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexually, and others. Deprivation of the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and others is also a form of abuse. Various reports stated that children in schools who suffered from negligence, physical, and emotional abuse had at least a parent who is addicted to either drugs or alcohol or both.
The issue of child abuse occurs in every social class but is particularly more prevalent among the low-income earners and the poor. Children whose parents are caught in a web of addiction are mostly neglected to face life without adequate supervision and these children are prone to making very bad choices in life. Many of these children grow up facing unpleasant challenges such as domestic violence, physical hurt, the societal stigma for their parent’s addiction, social isolation. These issues will have a negative impact on the child spurring emotional and behavioral issues.
Some typical results of these parent-drug issues on the child are depression, anxiety disorders, risk of developing psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, legal problems, anger issues, poor academic achievements.
2. Emotional Setback
Addiction is a mental problem and can sometimes deteriorate, even when the parent is doing all they can to either abstain from drugs and alcohol or home manage the situation. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite emotionally draining for the child to witness and this can cause various levels of emotional setbacks. The child may react to these drug-craving side effects in different ways; they may become extremely disturbed and develop a psychological problem or very low self-esteem.
The addiction dynamics can be traumatic for the child, no matter the level. The child may develop some sort of fears, insecurities, a sense of inadequacy, and others. There are parents who become liabilities to their children at a young age, putting them through hardship in life and many of them are forced to go out and fend for themselves and their parents.
Some of these children grow with the impression that they have to take care of their parents and hence they cannot take on any major opportunities to improve themselves; because they are trapped taking care of their parent, who is living with an addiction
3. Violence and aggression
Children who are living with parents with addiction are no strangers to domestic violence and excessive, unwarranted aggression. Drugs cause moodiness, irritability, anxiety, hallucinations, and stimulate the senses; these side effects may lead to a short temper, physical assault, and all forms of abuse.
4. Influence and Bad parenting
Children that grow up idolizing their parents become influenced by their habits and in so doing, become drug users themselves. This relationship between parent and child is very unhealthy as the child may grow up to become tolerant of their parent’s habits. The most probable situation is that the child will find themselves indulging in drug use later on in life.
How Can an Addict Become a better Parent?
Despite all, there are chances that a parent suffering from drug addiction can still turn the tables around and turn out to be a better parent than expected. There are a few steps to achieving this, these steps include:
1. Getting help from a rehabilitation facility
Seeking professional help is the first line of action to becoming a better parent. Once the individual has completed the rehab program is enrolled in Alcohol Anonymous or its alternative for drug use, the individual can begin his or her healing journey; abstaining from drugs and other toxic substances as well as living a conscious lifestyle.
2. Learn parenting skills
Some rehab centers and support groups offer counseling on various life skills. Parenting the right way is a skill that can be learned in these social support groups. The aim behind these groups is reintegration into society and to help one another with life’s challenges.
3. Express feelings in a healthy way
Addiction often leaves a person out of touch with reality. The person may lose basic skills such as self-expression and healthy communication. The best way to repair relationships with children, friends, and loved ones is to learn to communicate and express one’s feelings in a healthy way. This may take time, and getting cooperation from your children may take even longer, this is because everyone needs time to heal. Don’t force it, simply express yourself the healthy way, be consistent, and grow with it.
4. Practice Self Care
Self-care is one of the most underrated acts of all time. Most people do not understand that they need to be at peace with their inner self and find happiness in themselves. This also means doing the things you love, going to places that you have always wanted to visit, take part in fun, challenging activities, make friends, exercise, eat healthily and just live a wonderful life.
Taking each day as it comes can help to relieve stress and puts you at ease, that way there is no pressure to expedite your healing process.
5. Getting involved with Family
Family is very important and probably the most supportive group of people a healing addict needs to become completely free from addiction. The best way to heal is to open up more to the family, get involved in family conversations, events, and other things. Be present at the moment and put family first. In turn, your family will stick by you and encourage you every step of the way.